SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Comments are due today on the proposed elevation of a key technology committee on the California Judicial Council despite sharp questions about its history of decisions involving a software fiasco that has plagued relations between the judiciary and the Legislature.
A proposed rule would put the Technology Committee on formal par with the four existing internal committees that decide the agenda for council meetings, court rules, the legislative positions taken by the judiciary and courthouse construction.
The Technology Committee was originally called the Court Case Management System Internal Committee, and changed its name only after the cumbersome, labor-intensive, crash-prone CCMS software was junked by the council last year. The software project ran up a taxpayer tab of a half-billion dollars.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told reporters in a recent meeting, "If I knew then what I know now, probably I would have ended CCMS my first month in."
Proposed Rule 10.16, with comments due today, would nevertheless elevate the Technology Committee and define its formal responsibilities to include "establishing an approach and vision for implementing technology."
That move within the Judicial Council has brought a blast from trial court judges who bore the brunt of wrenching judiciary budget cuts exacerbated by the vast sums wasted on the CCMS project.
"It's important at this point to start fresh," said Judge Susan Lopez-Giss in Los Angeles. "It's hard to believe they cannot find 12 people in the state -- who are judges who have experience, who would be able to have some insight, who are critical thinkers -- to bring something new to the table. There is no way that Judicial Council committee can do this."
Judge Maryanne Gilliard in Sacramento amplified those concerns, questioning how anyone tied to the CCMS fiasco can continue to be involved in technology decisions for the courts and be involved in defending the related expenses in the Legislature. The two principal voices on technology within the leadership of California's judiciary are Justice Terence Bruiniers and Judge James Herman.
"Anybody who had any involvement in CCMS have proven themselves to be incompetent," said Gilliard."So if you had any part before, during or after you should not be on any IT committee."
"Justice Bruiniers and Judge Herman were two of the most vociferous cheerleaders for CCMS, and even after the State Auditor issued her scathing report they continued to defend the project," she continued. "Why would you continue to use Justice Bruiniers or Judge Herman to be the face of the judiciary for court IT projects based on their track record?"
Bruiniers was appointed to the Technology Advisory Committee by former Chief Justice Ron George in 1999 and has for many years been either its co-chair or chair. The CCMS project was launched around 2002, with the advisory committee centrally involved.
The CCMS Internal Committee was created in 2011 by the then newly-appointed Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, with the old advisory committee answering to the new internal committee which, with the collapse of CCMS, changed its name in 2012 to the Technology Committee, minus the formal status of an "internal" committee.
The CCMS Internal Committee and the follow-on Technology Committee was and is chaired by Judge Herman. The Technology Committee set up a separate Technology Planning Task Force, also in 2012. Herman heads that task force and Bruiniers sits on it.